There is a unique feeling flying over Alaska’s backcountry peering out of a bush plane, AND on your way to a remote fishing lodge. Vast rivers snaking through the tundra, cut their way to the sea and stretch for as far as the eye can see. Salmon pulsing through the waters like cells in your veins. As an Alaskan fly fishing guide, this feeling has gripped me on several occasions, and all have been nothing short of exhilarating. After 8 summers at remote destinations throughout Alaska’s backcountry however, I’ve come to realize there are some GREAT and GOOD times for fishing Alaska. Here are the top 3 pros and cons for fishing in Alaska during the early and late summer.

The Top 3 Pro’s and Con’s of Late and Early Season Fishing

Early Season PRO’S:

Fish are HUNGRY-  In the early part of the season, resident rainbows and other large migrating  trout from lower in the system are famished from the long cold winters. Late Spring and early Summer offers an abundance in food source with millions of fry and additional bug hatches beginning to proliferate during the early months. Fish will hit virtually anything moving presented in front of their face. Fishing late June and early July can be particularly deadly with top water patterns and even mice.

Mousing is best during the Early Season- Alaska is notably famed for its carnivorous trout which eagerly feed on mice. During the early portion of the season when salmon haven’t quite entered our systems, hungry trout are voracious for large meals. Shrews, voles, and Alaska’s Lemmings all provide a hefty source of protein, and are a staple part of most Alaska trout diets. These small rodents often swim across rivers or creeks and make for excellent ‘snacks’ for our eager and willing rainbows and grayling.

The Kings-  The King Salmon show up around the end of May/beginning of June and are the biggest beasts to occupy our waters. They average around 15-20 lbs with bigger fish getting to be a whopping 50-60+. They are some of the most difficult fish to wrangle in but are a prized bucket catch for many anglers due to their sheer size and aggressive fights. The method for targeting these bad boys varies between swinging, stripping giant streamers on single handed rods, to throwing spoons or lures. Whatever fits your fancy these wily monsters are a worthy adversary.

Early Season CON’S:

The Mosquitos- It’s common to hear the state bird of Alaska referred to as the mosquito, and although jest, there is some truth to the copious amounts prevalent during the early portion of the season… not to mention they are HUGE. Mosquitos can not only be a downright pestilence, they can severely impact the moral of a trip.  With thousands of them swarming around you, at all times, the buzz and constant pin pricks can be awfully deterring while out on the water. Sure there is a trade off with how well the fishing can be, and you can most certainly take a repellent or deet bath, however that only keeps them at a distance. They never really go away.

Endless Light- Although this really goes both ways, a lot of people struggle adjusting their circadian rhythm or sleep wake cycle during the long days. The sun doesn’t set until almost 12-30-1 am during the early portion of summer and can be difficult to acclimate to. Most lodges have blinds or blankets hung over the windows, but it can still be challenging to adjust.

Fish follow the food- Because most fish, (and in general the entire ecosystem) depend on the salmon, and most don’t start arriving or spawning until mid Summer, the food sources for rainbows, dollies, and grayling in some of the ancillary systems is lacking. This has a direct impact on how far fish will move up a main river stem and into tributaries. During the early portion of the season some of our favorite fisheries, plain and simply, don’t yet have fish.

Late Season PRO’S:

 Fish are HUGE- After an entire season of gorging themselves on mice, bugs, terrestrials, and most notably salmon eggs and carcasses, rainbows and other fish can be nearly as big around as they are long. They pack on ample fat storages to last through harsh winter conditions and are giant feisty fiends during a hook up with all that added weight.

SILVERS- Silver fishing can be some of the funniest fishing of the entire year. These burly giants average around 10-12 pounds and can RIP out line. They usually travel in pods and can be targeted on both subsurface and topwater patterns, which can be downright exhilarating for anglers. Usually silvers begin to arrive around mid August and are here until late September. To say they are fun fish to land, is an absolute understatement.

No more Mosquitos- Usually the first cold snap comes around the end of August killing the remainder of mosquitos for the season. This makes for some relaxing fishing days on the rivers without the need to bath in deet, or wear one of those ridiculous head nets that are oh so necessary during the beginning of the Summer.

Late Season CON’S:

 Weather: Although during the Summer Alaska is prone to getting storms throughout, the Fall temperatures shift and with it, comes fog and storms. It is not uncommon towards the ladder part of the season that fog and rainy days are the norm sometimes impeding the ability for your lodge to access/fly to some of the more remote areas in their fishery. Additionally, a few days of rain can cause a sudden influx in water, causing rivers to swell well beyond their normal flows making it more difficult to access the fish and best parts of runs on the river.

Smell: Around the end of the year, all those Salmon that have been fighting to migrate upstream and spawn, are dying or dead and the air on the river can REEK with the smell of rot and decay. IF you are somebody that has a softer stomach and sensitive to smells the end of Alaska’s fishing season can certainly be taxing for days on end.

Fish can be a little more finicky- After a season of anglers presenting fly after fly in front of their faces, the bigger fish can be a little more difficult to target. Although not uncatchable by any means, it can be a little more challenging for the average angler to pick up the monsters that have been around since the beginning of the summer. That being said, some of the biggest fish I’ve seen come out of Alaska waters have been during the Fall.

Here at Talaheim our fisheries are superb no matter what time of year you choose to come. If you’re a looking for LOTS of fish, worried about you’re casting capabilities, or just a newer angler on the water looking to experience Alaska, our mid season is idyllic. The king salmon are just starting to spawn and that means every fish in the river is vouching for a position behind their reds trying to get at any eggs that happen to bounce out.

When it comes to the shoulders of the Summer season, there is really no bad time to fish. Although there are pros and cons to both the early and later parts, it is productive throughout our entire season. The end of Summer, early Fall has some particularly wonderful opportunities at big, meaty, healthy fish, but likewise the early Summer offers some ideal opportunities at lunkers. During days were fog settles in around late Summer and Fall, if we aren’t able to fly out for a morning, we just head down to the river, jump in our jet boats and wait for the weather to cooperate.

If you were to ask a guide which is the best time to fish, it really depends on personal preference and what type of fishing you want to do. However if I were to add my two sense, I’d choose a slot for the week at the very end of the season when the fish are well fed and at their largest size for the season.

It’s never too early to book your 2022 trip to visit the best fly fishing lodge in Alaska.

Tight lines and happy fishing, hope to see you soon!!